All schools in Delhi will be shut until Tuesday (November 5), Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Friday afternoon. The announcement came soon after the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered a complete shutdown of construction in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Greater Noida as PM 2.5 concentration breached the 300 micrograms per cubic metre mark in the morning.
The action is part of a series of incremental steps to be taken under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) as the quality of the air deteriorates.
Explained: Steps taken against Delhi pollution
Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)
Stricter measures to fight air pollution came into force in Delhi and its neighbourhood on October 15 this year, as part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The action plan, which is an institutionalised response to the deterioration of air quality, has been in effect for two years in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). What is new this year is that the measures aimed at stopping the use of diesel generator sets has been extended beyond just Delhi to the NCR as a whole.
GRAP was formulated after several meetings that the EPCA had with representatives of state governments and experts. It was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, and notified in 2017. It comprises a series of measures that come into force incrementally as pollution increases.
GRAP is an emergency measure. It does not include the action that various state governments are expected to take throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular, and combustion emissions.
When the air quality moves from the ‘Poor’ to the ‘Very poor’ category, the measures listed under both categories (‘Poor’ as well as ‘Very poor’) have to be followed. If air quality reaches the ‘Severe+’ stage, GRAP mandates that schools must be shut down, and the odd-even road-space rationing scheme must be implemented.
Schools in Delhi have now been shut; the odd-even scheme is in any case scheduled to come into effect in Delhi on November 4.
Different stages of GRAP
Severe+ or Emergency (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours)
This is the worst identified quality of air. It is not yet 48 hours of this situation, however, the EPCA and Delhi government have already moved on the steps, which include:
* Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities)
* Stop construction work
* Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions
* Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools
Severe (PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.)
This is the next worst stage. The response under GRAP includes:
* Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers
* Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal
* Encourage public transport, with differential rates
* More frequent mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water
Very Poor (PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.)
The response includes:
* Stop use of diesel generator sets
* Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times
* Increase bus and Metro services
* Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter
* Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement
Moderate to poor (PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.)
* Heavy fines for garbage burning
* Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries
* Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling
* Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers